First Look: Little Italy’s favourite Thai joint is now Shanee, a café and bar


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Image: Yvonne Tsui

Soi Thai, the restaurant that brought Thai food to Little Italy is now a café by day and bar by night. Shanee, from owners Nopphawan (Sherry) Lertchaiprasert Papa and Pablito Papa came out of a “changing demographic” in a neighbourhood that is “full of bars targeting a younger demographic,” says Sherry. 

The name Shanee is a term of endearment, like “hey girl.” The mascot, a Hawaiian pin-up girl sits atop a bomb and is a throwback to the imagery of the 1940s and ’50s. “She’s the bomb,” says Sherry in keeping with her playful, colourful personality. Fake turf lines the walls with accents of flowers. “I wanted it to be girly and fun,” she adds.


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 

The café serves the usual combination of coffee and teas with added twists like the Cha Ron ($4.75), a beautiful layering of condensed milk at the base with Thai tea and a Thai tea cookie that serves as the “almost-too-pretty-to-eat” garnish. The breakfast menu features toast of the sweet and savoury variety ($3.25-$4.50) and coffee is sourced from Hale Coffee and Genuine Tea.


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 

The rebrand builds on some recognizable favourites from the Soi Thai menu and has added an emphasis on the cocktail program and a selection of bar snacks. The younger kids like to “go out and try new things; cheaper eats and drinks,” says Sherry.


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 

Drinksmith’s Stefano Pilla has created a list of Instagrammable and sippable cocktails all at $12 a pop, plus there's also a selection of house-infused soju. Signature cocktails include the Foreign Affair, made with El Dorado eight-year-old rum, choco-chile tonka, grapefruit bitters and citron tea honey. Another cocktail called Bambi is made with Tag No. 5 vodka, butterfly pea extract, Giffard crème de violet, cava, lemon-ginger syrup and lemon juice.

The bar snacks at Shanee are “Southeast Asian inspired but still Thai-focused.” There’s an injection of Filipino and Vietnamese flavours, an homage to the countries where her husband and sister-in-law are from. 


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 

Duck wings ($12) are marinated in five-spice and grilled for that charred effect and topped with fried shallots and red chillies. The Charred Kalbi Short Ribs w/ Rice Balls ($14) here are done Thai-style with rice balls that get its colourful hue with the use of butterfly pea flour. The Fried Cheese w/ Tom Yum Sauce ($7) is Sherry’s re-imagination of poppers with a Thai twist. The Spicy Glass Noodle Seafood Salad is aptly named as it’s a dish you can eat without the carb overload guilt.

The new space aims to be a place for “great conversation” while dishing up “great food and great drinks.”

Shanee is open on weekdays (except Tuesday) from 8 a.m. to close and on weekends from 11 a.m. to close.

Shanee, 651 College St., 647-345-8838


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 

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Yvonne is a freelance food and drink writer and the Director of Brand Experience at U-Feast, which curates unique, off-menu dining experiences.  Always in search of delicious. Decor and service be damned, food is king. Follow her @life_of_y and @u_feast.  Warning: don't look at her "feed" if you're hungry.

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